Devendra Banhart: Mala


devDevendra Banhart
(Nonesuch Records)

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Devendra Banhart is one of those artists who is capable of sounding as though he has been transported from another era. Like Banhart’s previous efforts, Mala is a quiet hippie of an album, taking the darkest of concepts and making them sound beautiful and peaceful.

Mala is eccentric without being quirky, folk without trying too hard to be purposefully weird. In a way, the opening track’s title, “Golden Girls,” feels like a wink with its title since the lyrics appeal to a young man to “get on the dance floor” over a vaguely Eastern beat.

The lyrics often do undercut the acoustic, old school vibe here. Though “Never Seen Such Good Things” has a funky sound, it features lines like “If we ever make sweet love again/I’m sure that it will be quite disgusting” and “sad lady, you win.” Likewise, “Your Fine Petting Duck” has a sexy flavor, while the lyrics are really about convincing his ex-girlfriend that he is a worse boyfriend than the person she is currently dating. This song takes a surprising twist with some electro influence and German lyrics at the end.

Mala is hardly covering new territory for Banhart, but he flourishes well with his ‘60s vibe and popped whisper vocals. New fans might not be drawn in if they’ve disliked what they’ve heard so far, but I have a feeling Banhart isn’t keeping an audience in mind anyway. You dig?

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